Session Presenter

picture of Martin Reeves
Martin Reeves
Boston Consulting Group

Martin Reeves Answers Questions Submitted during "The Imagination Machine"

To what extent do you consider ecosystems / collaborative thinking a necessary prerequisite in fostering strategic imagination?

Reeves: If imagination is the updating of mental models, based on surprises, then encountering anomalies, accidents and analogies is critical. This requires external orientation and collaboration, which could be obtained from a business ecosystem or some other means. One of the advantages of digital ecosystems for innovation is that they multiply opportunities for encountering surprises.

Humans are taught and use methods to enhance analysis, such as Analysis of Competing Hypotheses that fosters thinking about hypotheses and evidence to overcome human biases and reasoning flaws. Are there ways in which organizations (or society through education or upskilling) can help advanced these cognitive aids (either manual or digital) to advance Augmented Intelligence?

Reeves: As I mentioned during my presentation, I use a series of “Pre-strategy games” to enhance both counterfactual thinking and collaborative ideation and idea evolution. I included a reference that describes some of these in the note shared by SMS. The field of digital tools to facilitate imagination is an emerging and exciting one. Some of those which I use are Insightfully, an “automated analytics” company and Quid, a visual semantic analysis tool. Both increase the efficiency with which one can spot patterns and anomalies in data, which can be the trigger for imagination. BCG also experimented with something we called the “Strategy Gallery” which was a collection of strategic analogies, which was designed to help strategists stretch their analogical thinking.


You talked about Inertia of Maturity and Scale; and you mention Amazon as an example of the 6th stage-- Sustain. Isn't that the most difficult and elusive stage? Could you share additional insights on this important and difficult stage?

Reeves: What the strategy literature calls ambidexterity – the ability to both explore and exploit with advantage – is indeed rare (3% of companies we estimate) and valuable. Our research on strategic capabilities also shows that universal strategists (ones which are advantaged at planning, adapting, visionary and collaborative problems) are equally rare. Some of the things which companies can practically do to build these are 1) diversify metrics to include more forward-looking indicators 2) cultivate diverse talent 3) build diverse teams 4) structure for ambidexterity – we define 4 ways of doing this.


In practice, how do you connect your imagination process with the Strategic Planning Process?

Reeves: The simplest way is to have a pre-strategy phase, where possibilities are broadened using the games mentioned above, before strategy formulation is commenced. Another is to apply the multiple meta-strategic lenses I described in my book, Your Strategy Needs a Strategy, in order to address strategy on different timescales and in different contexts.


What could be limiting mental models (e.g. in industry) and how to deal with them?

Reeves: As has been described by others success limits finding new possibilities – it defines norms, it creates contexts where performance is more important than search for future performance, it creates dominant mental models which are mistaken for fact and become hard to challenge. Skepticism, experimentation, attention to anomalies and some of the other techniques I describe in the articles I circulated can help to break these lock in effects.


You may also be interested in some of the materials Martin referenced during the presentation. Click here to pre-order his book The Imagination Machine: How to Spark New Ideas and Create Your Company's Future on Amazon, check out the articles: We Need Imagination Now More Than EverCompeting on Imagination, and Your Capabilities Need a Strategy, or read Martin’s interview with Bob Goodson.